Crowdsourcing Data

The internet has changed so many facets of our lives.  Its ability to connect people, machines and devices virtually anywhere in the world together at relatively low costs have made real things that were only science fiction when I started by first business 26 years ago. In fact, much of what I can provide to my customers now would have not been possible even just a few years ago.

Even 20 years into the internet revolution, new and amazing ways are being found to utilize the internet. One of the latest is crowd sourcing.

The term “crowd sourcing” effectively means using members of the community to achieve what would be difficult, too expensive or even impossible to do using traditional means.

Crowd sourcing has become a popular way to fund new projects for example.  Over the last few years websites like Kickstarter have sprung up that are allowing entrepreneurs to go public with little more than an idea.  If they like it, individuals can pledge funds towards the idea and if the target is reached the entrepreneur gets the money they need to get started.

Crowd sourcing of data is a little different.  It involves members of the public producing data points on a particular metric which are then accumulated to produce a picture from thousands of locations which would have been too expensive to have been accumulated in any other way.

There are some great examples of crowd sourced data projects around the world. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are working on their own data incentives.

In the UK the Natural History Museum runs a number of crowd sourced data projects doing wildlife surveys. Sometimes these are with regards to specific species in specific localities and in other cases they are covering virtually every living organism across as much of the country as possible.

A project called the Air Quality Egg has been developed. This product is an inexpensive sensor that measures air quality, gas levels and environmental data. The idea is that if hundreds of citizens across a city purchase these eggs and connect them to a common platform the combined data will provide new insights into the quality of air we breath, and the factors that influence it. The data this platform produces can be analysed to determine such things as how the structure of the city is influencing micro-weather patterns and pollution levels; to give early warning to people with respiratory issues and more.

This approach provides more data points than is possible by normal measurement techniques, it is highly scalable and is able to be deployed globally at very low cost.

Google is using crowd sourcing to update its map data for Google maps and add real time traffic level, and in Finland they use crowd sourced data to determine which roads are iced over.

Closer to home projects exists similar to those above. One great example using both crowd sourcing of data and crowd source funding that has been in the news just recently is the Coal Dust Action Group in Newcastle that are studying the effects of particulates emitted by coal trains through their city.

In this case a crowd sourced funding project was used to purchase measurement equipment and professional advice in order to collect the data.  It’s a great example of these approaches being applied under what has been termed “Community Science Projects”.

Of course these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  Crowd sourced data projects elsewhere are being used to collect the cultural language and artistic history of declining cultures; measuring the impact of major development projects on the community and the environment and even to work out what the best surfing spots are.  The possibilities are endless.

But what about crowdsourcing of business data! There now exists the possibility of gathering statistics on business confidence, average debtors ages, commercial activity, overdraft interest rates, staff levels, churn rates and more.

If you know of other great crowd sourced projects or have ideas crowdsourcing data that you’d like to see, let us know on our Facebook page.

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